Standing up for Science – 2018 Mid-Term Elections

In this mid-term election season, it is imperative that Fellows understand how local candidates stand on federal initiatives to strengthen science and innovation. Candidates turn into lawmakers and lawmakers decide if and when to support science agencies that fund your work. Now is the time to ask future lawmakers how they would respond to pressing science, medicine, and engineering issues facing our community before election day. AIMBE has developed resources to help you ask the right questions (either by email or in-person at campaign events). It has never been more critical for AIMBE’s engagement on public policy efforts to advance the field. Identify your local candidates and learn who will be on your ballot.

Candidates’ Stance on Science

AIMBE invites all Fellows to connect with their local candidates during this mid-term election season. Now is the time to ask future lawmakers how they would respond to pressing science, medicine, and engineering issues facing our community before election day.

Do you know if your House and Senate candidates prioritize science and innovation? Raise these issues by attending a local campaign event, reaching out to candidates by email, or calling a campaign office. Be sure to ask more than one candidate running for a seat so you can compare their responses. Find your candidates and ask them to respond!

Questions for Candidates

  1. INNOVATION. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII. What role, if any, should government play in stimulating innovative science and technology?
  1. STUDENT IMMIGRATION. 30 percent of U.S. graduate students are from abroad and 40 percent of Ph.D. candidates are foreign-born, contributing $37 billion to the U.S. economy. How will you support international students in America, given the recent extreme vetting measures of student visas?
  1. RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES. Adjusted for inflation, 46 states are spending less per student on higher education today than before the recession. As a result, tuition has skyrocketed in many states, some with tuition 75 percent higher in 2016 compared to 2008. What will you do to support our local universities conducting innovative and life-saving biomedical research?
  1. U.S. DOMINANCE IN SCIENCE. The United States is rapidly losing its competitive advantage in biomedical engineering & innovation. The U.S. no longer ranks among the top 10 countries in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index. What will you do to reverse this downward trend?
  1. SCIENCE BUDGET. America spends less than 1% of our federal budget on medical research, while we spend 26% on medical care. This is pennywise and pound-foolish economics. How will you support our nation’s medical research agencies, including the National Institutes of Health?

Attend a Campaign Event

Campaign events are a great opportunity to have direct contact with your local candidates. Raising key questions at public meetings is an effective approach to bringing science issues to the forefront.

Here are tips for finding and effectively participating in public events to engage your candidates:

  • Plan to sit in the front row and ask a question that requires a thoughtful response, rather than a yes/no response.
  • Your question should be clear and concise. It’s not about sharing data or arguing your perspective—it’s about piquing the interest for the candidate or local community to further delve into the issue.
  • In just a few sentences, your question should do the following:
    • Introduce yourself as a constituent and establish yourself as an expert in your area of research.
    • Make a specific ask of the candidate—an action or a stance they take—on a specific issue.
    • Demonstrate why your issue and what’s at stake to the local community.
  • Follow-up by sending a thank you note to the candidate and their staff for their time. Share concise informational resources with the staff—fact sheets or executive summaries, not full reports or research papers. This is a great opportunity to make a personal connection and offer yourself not only as a concerned constituent, but also as a resource.

Write an Op-Ed

Candidates keep a close watch on media coverage, tracking issues of importance to their local constituency. This makes writing an op-ed an effective way to reach policymakers and candidates alike about important issues relevant to medical and biological engineering.

Writing Tips

  1. Every sentence counts. Get to the point: Why does your topic matter? Why should it matter today?
  2. Share your expertise. If you have relevant qualifications to the topic you’re addressing be sure to include that in your letter. If you are a biomedical engineer at a local university—share that information up front.
  3. Make a call to action. Open your letter by advocating for your position. Then wrap your piece by explaining what you think needs to happen now, make your call to action.
  4. Be persuasive. It is important to have a clear thesis, in the service of a persuasive argument. Avoid “on the one hand, on the other hand” statements. Op-ed pages are for one-handed writers.

Keep in Mind…

  • Keep your op-ed brief, concise, and compelling. Get to the main point in the first two sentences. Keep your sentences short and your paragraphs tight. Your op-ed should be 700-800 words.
  • Be timely. Respond to issues that are currently making the rounds in the newspaper.
  • In your own words. Take the time to write the piece in your own words.


NYT: Falling Short on Science

The New York Times published an op–ed by Maria Zuber, PhD, vice president for research at M.I.T., that reminds readers of the effect of federal budget uncertainty on America’s leadership in sciences and technology. After discussing the US as a global competitor, Dr. Zuber writes, “We cannot continue to advance the frontiers of knowledge and lead the world in innovation without funding for students and equipment, and when the only long-term federal commitment is to fiscal uncertainty.”

The Hill: America Must Get Out of the Woods on Medical Research Funding

Claire Pomeroy, MD, MBA, president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, wrote an op–ed in The Hill that urges readers to support “all the agencies playing critical roles in advancing medical research.” In the article, Dr. Pomeroy points out that “the research pipeline that delivers medicines and healthcare technologies involves an interdependent network of federal agencies,” further asking readers to “support the NIH and the entire network of federal agencies and institutions whose mission is to ensure the public’s health.”

Submission Tips

  • Most newspapers post guidelines and addresses for submitting op-eds electronically. Include text within the body of an e-mail – attachments are usually discouraged.
  • ​Some newspapers ask for your picture, so please include a high-resolution image along with the piece.
  • Submissions need to be exclusive to one media outlet, so don’t approach a second publication until you’ve been declined at the first one. You may stipulate at the top of your piece that you will offer it elsewhere if you don’t hear back within a certain period of time – three business days, for example.
  • Make sure to include your contact information and a brief line on your credentials.